Thursday, January 25, 2007

Truffles of Love

As January comes to an end our thoughts are set for Valentine's Day. While I am not totally rah rah for the Hallmark Holidays, I must admit I am a fan of the odd bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates (what gal isn’t?). D and I won't be doing anything "special" this Valentine's Day (at least not that I know of), but I am sure others will. For that, I present two delectable truffles, the chocolate kind, not the mushroom (though some think the mushroom intoxicates the senses). To really woo a person, a homemade treat is an amazing declaration of love.

Aphrodisiacs have been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans (and possibly before). The name is attributed to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. For centuries, people have been known to hit the streets hawking potions that will make them fertile, randy, attractive or powerful over the opposite sex. Today we have the internet and hundreds of spammed Viagra adds to pick up the slack.

Chocolate is probably one of the oldest known aphrodisiacs. Much of this is due to the fact that it was once so hard to come by, the price was set for the well-to-do only. Times change, cacao is easier to come by, and thankfully most people can enjoy chocolate's deep, rich flavor-- though you can still find outrageously priced confections to prove your love.

An even older aphrodisiac is seafood. Possibly due to the fact that some believe Aphrodite was birthed from the seas, most anything that has come from salted waters has been thought to have powerful sexual powers at some point; from anchovies to clams to oysters.

Ginger is known to open the taste buds and therefore offers higher sense pleasures.

Chili pepper and garlic, both bring color to the face that match the color of “bed” time.

Honey is thought to be an aphrodisiac, apparently the birds and the bees really knew what was going on.

Also, anything that resembles either male or female sexual organs can hold aphrodisiac powers. You name it: figs, carrots, strawberries, cigars, starfruit, Georgia O'Keeffe paintings, etc.

Finally, wines and champagnes are known to loosen people up and allow them to lose inhibitions. Careful though, liquor is a depressant and too much can do just the opposite of what you may be looking for in a Valentine love-filled night.

Whatever your plans are for Valentine’s Day, gift the one you love or yearn for something sweet. These two truffle recipes are surprisingly simple. The first was taken from The Cook’s Book edited by Jill Norman. The book is a fantastic collection of tips and recipes from some of the top chefs around the world. The recipe is from pâtissiers Pierre Hermé (as it appears in The Cook’s Book). They are a unique combination of flavors and absolutely melt in the mouth. The other recipe is adapted from They produce beautiful looking truffles whether you have a pastry bag or not. Both recipes are easy enough for beginners, though Hermé’s requires some drying time.

Makes About 50.
* 1 lb best quality bitter chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids)
* 7 tablespoons butter
* ¾ cup crème frâiche
* 2-3 limes
* 2-½ tablespoons acacia honey

for the coating
* finely grated zest of ½ lime
* ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1-1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1) Prepare the coating the day before needed. Mix the lime zest with the sugar and rub between palms of your hands. Spread in a thin layer on a nonstick baking sheet and let dry overnight at room temperature. Before mixing with the cocoa powder in step 8, check to be sure the sugar is completely dry.
2) The following day, chop the chocolate into small pieces with a serrated-edged knife and place in a large heatproof bowl. Cut the butter into walnut-sized pieces, place in a bowl, and let soften to room temperature.
3) Pour the crème frâiche into a pan and bring to a boil. Finely grate the zest from 1 lime into the crème frâiche. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let infuse for 10 minutes. Return to the heat and bring back just to a boil. Remove fromo the heat again.
4) While the crème frâiche is infusing, squeeze the limes to yield 3-½ tablespoons of juice. Put the lime juice and honey into another small pan. Warm without boiling.
5) Pour half of the hot crème frâiche over the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon, starting at the center with small circles and moving outward. Add the rest of the crème frâiche and repeat the stirring process. Add the lime juice and honey mixture.
6) Once the chocolate mixture is smooth, add the pieces of butter, a few at a time, stirring them in gently. Chill until the ganache has thickened, at least 30 minutes.
7) Stir the ganache gently before pushing it into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 9 round tip. Pipe balls of ganache onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 2 hours.
8) Mix the cocoa powder with the dry lime-flavored sugar and spread over a tray. Using a fork, roll the balls of ganache in the coating mixture. Remove with a slotted spoon, then shake gently in a strainer to remove any excess coating. Store in an airtight container.

Makes About 60.
* 2 tablespoons heavy cream or crème frâiche
* zest of ½ a lime
* ½ cup (about ½ pint) fresh raspberries, washed and patted dry
* 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cocoa), chopped into ¼ inch pieces
* 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
* ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (100% is best)

1) Place cream and lime zest in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir often, and bring to a simmer (do not boil). This will take just a few minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate pieces. Stir until smooth and dissolved. Stir in brandy.
2) Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Place ½ the raspberries into the ganache. Using two small forks, coat each raspberry individually in the ganache, remove and place on the wax paper. Do not let them touch. Continue until all raspberries are covered in the same fashion. Chill truffles for 1-2 hours.
3) Set the cocoa powder in a shallow bowl. Remove truffles from wax paper and drop into the bowl, coating with the cocoa powder. Remove and shake off excess cocoa.
4) Truffles should be kept refrigerated until ready to eat. Because you are using fresh raspberries, truffles should be eaten within 1 week, any truffles that will not be eaten immediately should be frozen.

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